Trischel conducted a successful communication training session yesterday with another great group of business people. I love getting to know the people at these training sessions, and am always interested in what their goals are, and how improved personal communication skills can help them.

As a female who survived the rigours of that bastion of the male bonding club, the military, I am also very interested in the women in business that I meet and have often had really interesting discussions on the role of women in the workplace. Yesterday was no different.

I met a number of women from diverse occupations, but was surprised to find that they all agreed on the type of problems that they faced within their industries. I had felt that the worst of the opposition to women in the workplace was over, and that while there may still be isolated incidents of ‘anti-female’ bias, generally we were beginning to be respected for our abilities and talents.

The main attitude that I discovered from these women was a sense of frustration, not at the way they were treated but at the way that men behaved in the workplace. This is subtly different to being angry at the way men treated them; this was a more general frustration at what was considered acceptable behaviour by men – within their workplace.

One woman working in the financial sector, spoke of the ‘over-competitiveness’ of the men she worked with. She highlighted that men were more likely to take unacceptable risks to achieve results. Consequently when they got it wrong, they got it wrong spectacularly.

When asked about the performance of women, she admitted that women were more cautious, and took less risks – traits which were condemned in the good times – but now appeared to be more successful in this ‘recession’.

She is not alone in her belief that women’s more cautious attitude towards business is certainly bearing fruit now. In the UK, which has been much harder hit by the downturn, women’s businesses are considered more likely to survive than others.

That this is because of their more cautious approach is confirmed by Rebecca Harding, managing director of Delta, who said “female entrepreneurs had been more cautious about bank borrowing [They] have slightly different business models. They are more about making sure they don’t over-extend themselves and fall too close to the sun”

Another article supportive of the ability of women-led businesses, also suggests that these business will be much better placed to take advantage of the inevitable surge. In addition this gives a very comprehensive list of some of the UK’s top women in business and the diversity of industries they work in. (Relax – the page loads a trifle slowly)

So with all these positive attitudes abounding, surely the work that women do in business is indeed being respected and appreciated? It must mean that we have passed on from that stereo-typical type of business women who only achieve success through their connection with successful men. (A slightly more tongue-in-cheek reference to what was once sneeringly referred to “sleeping their way to promotion!” in the military)

Well, if this article in the respected Wall Street Journal is to go by, alas; No.

That respected business journals can still peddle this nonsense is depressing. And I particularly liked the indignity of this remark “If you have an advantage, you shouldn’t use it!”
I am sorry, can you say that again! The men I worked with were quick to seize any advantage and use it for their own interests. Their attitude was the direct opposite – if you have an advantage; then you are a fool if you don’t use it.

If being born a female is perceived as ‘being an advantage’’; if being pleasant in the workplace is seen as using unfair tactics; if taking the opportunity to look your best is placing unfair pressure on the male members of the office – all I can say to them is “Grow Up!”

When the recession is over – and it will eventually be over – it appears that it will be those businesses which are owned by, or predominantly led by women that will be still standing, and more men will be working for women bosses- so maybe they had better get used to it.
But perhaps we should focus on the more positive attitudes which are now being heard in the main media – and be grateful that such articles as published in the Wall Street Journal are becoming far less numerous.

And if there are lessons to be learned, it is that sometimes differing ways of conducting business can bring advantages across the board.

Despite the underlying attitudes which still, unfortunately, occasionally rear their ugly heads, I feel that the opportunities are bright for women who seek a career in the future.
Then maybe I can actually retire – and let my daughter keep me in my old age!!


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